JAPAN HANGS TWO, BUT URGES DEBATE ON EXECUTION
|Justice Minister Keiko Chiba
July 28, 2010: Japan hanged two men for murder in the first executions since the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan took power last year, but the government also announced a review of capital punishment.
Justice Minister Keiko Chiba, a long-time opponent of the death penalty, said she attended the executions and announced she would launch a study group within her ministry to review its use.
"I confirmed the executions with my own eyes," said Chiba. "It made me again think deeply about the death penalty, and I once again strongly felt that there is a need for a fundamental discussion about the death penalty."
The state put to death Kazuo Shinozawa, 59, who killed six people by setting fire to a jewellery store, and Hidenori Ogata, 33, who killed a man and a woman and seriously injured two others.
After the two executions at the Tokyo Detention House, Chiba called a press conference and told reporters: "Under my order, the two people -- Kazuo Shinozawa and Hidenori Ogata -- were executed."
"Since the executions were ordered by me, it's my responsibility to see them through properly, so I was present at today's executions," she said, adding that she may have been the first justice minister to do so.
She announced her decision to launch a ministry review panel on the death penalty, and to open up death chambers to the media for the first time -- though not on execution dates -- to expose the process to public view.
Chiba may be replaced soon as justice minister, since she lost her parliamentary seat in upper house elections early this month, casting doubt about how much influence she will have on the issue. (Sources: Agence France Presse, 28/07/2010)